Not all tutoring is created equal! Most tutors use "eclectic" approaches to reading, or use over-the-counter workbooks. Such tutors will often say they use a variety of materials and approaches according to the child's needs, yet they have not been trained in any specific remediation program. Piecing together multiple materials lacks any ability to offer incremental, sequential instruction which builds concept after concept. If you child is struggling, do NOT trust materials or instruction without research-proven documentation.
Sadly, many tutors claim they use "research-based" materials. Ask to see the research. Just because a workbook was successful in a study with a few classrooms of 1st graders, doesn't mean it will work with severely-struggling 4th graders! Neither does it mean it is designed to work for dyslexia, the most common cause of reading problems. For most students, these types of materials will bring only temporary and minimal growth.
Progress from tutoring or special education programs can be deceptive. A child will usually make some progress with any tutor, because praise and individual attention will spike a child's self-motivation. Yet, is the child improving at a reasonable rate?
Claims such as "Billy learned 50 words last month!" might sound like progress, yet if Billy's peers learned 200 words in the same month, then Billy is actually falling further behind -- every day -- in spite of the money you are paying and the time he is devoting. Only very specific types of programs are designed to permit the rate of growth necessary to make grade-level gains.
Ask the tutor to explain how much progress your child needs in order to catch up to his peers -- not by estimating, but through the use or sound, quick assessments and documented data. A tutor should be able to show you data regarding where the child is, and where he needs to be. Tutors should periodically be able to show you how much gain your child has made, and how far he needs to go in relation to his peers. Parents should not need to wait several months before they know their child's rate of progress.
Beware of tutors and large tutoring businesses which use standardized "Achievement Tests" to claim your child's growth. It is impossible to show a child's rate of growth using a grade-level achievement test. If he's a 3rd grader, taking a 3rd grade test, and the company claims your child is beginning his tutoring functioning at mid-1st grade level, this is false information. In order to prove a child is at 1st grade level, he needs to take a 1st grade test. Only then, would you know where he is functioning within the 1st grade level. This "grade equivalent" or "grade level" test score is NOT designed to show where your child's baseline function is.
If a company has your child take the same 3rd-grade test a few months later and they claim he now functions at 4th grade level, (boasting 2.5 years of growth on their program), this is also a false claim. It is impossible to show a child is functioning at 4th grade level when the test covers only 3rd grade material.
Furthermore, these kinds of tests do not show the underlying skills the child is lacking which are keeping him from success. Baseline assessments need to measure foundational skills necessary for reading -- phonemic awareness and phonological processing -- not simply a grade-level assessment of reading vocabulary and comprehension.
If your child is being tutored in reading, ask the tutor for a copy of the research which proves their program is designed to give sufficient intervention to allow the student to catch up (excel at a rate faster than his peers). Ask the tutor or center for the names of the exact books and materials they use, then ask if they have research on those exact items.
Research is generally not available on materials such as workbooks, phonics readers, and other items which some tutors and centers like to piece together. These materials might provide a temporary boost, but generally do not result in sufficient gains. The parent ultimately wastes money, and the student's struggles are prolonged since he is still below grade-level standards.
The student should make more than "some" progress. If the child has not made significant gains after a few months of tutoring, the gap between him and his peers is widening. This student needs intervention materials which are designed to make up for a student's loss of educational growth.
"Data-driven Instruction" means each student's tutoring is based on solid data which documents the child's own needs. Such data is best when obtained from parents and school (including any formal testing and special education data), and also current diagnostic assessments.
Academic Learning Solutions uses standardized formal screening tools which document the student’s rate of growth in comparison to nationwide students of the same grade. This "progress monitoring" data is taken initially and periodically throughout tutoring. This provides research-based data to inform the parents and tutor whether or not the student is excelling at a sufficient rate to close the gap.
When students are not excelling rapidly enough, sometimes a change in programming is needed to permit the student to excel at a faster pace. With this data, parents and the tutor can make educational decisions that get the student to grade-level proficiency and keep him there.